12 Things to Know About South Mountain Freeway (and a Virtual Video to Watch)

The Arizona Department of Transportation released its latest slick flyover video mock-up of what the South Mountain Freeway will look like when it opens. ADOT always has had a sales job to do on this, its largest-ever single project.

If you’re a frustrated motorist who can’t wait the three years for a way to avoid the Broadway curve through Tempe, then the video is the next best thing. If you’re a frustrated environmental activist or Gila River Indian Community member, then you’re hoping this is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing the Loop 202 extension.

After three decades of planning, funding challenges, and political squabbling, the South Mountain Freeway is under construction. Columns are already starting to emerge at some of the future interchanges.

Much has been written about the lingering, controversial freeway. But here a dozen fun facts that maybe you missed.

It ain’t over til it’s over. Five times, opponents have gone to court to block the freeway work, and five times ADOT prevailed, most recently in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But that was only to determine whether an emergency injunction should be granted to halt work immediately. ADOT says appeals on the case to declare the entire project illegal are still before the court this spring.

Two: $1.77 billion. That’s how many dollars we are paying for the cost of the freeway.

Three: 22. That’s how long it is in miles.
Four: 1. That’s how many new double-roundabout interchanges are being built. ADOT is also introducing its first “diverging diamond” interchange in the state. Don’t ask. Watch the video.

Five: $100 million (or more). That’s how much ADOT says it saved from its estimated contract price when it awarded a new type of contract, called a P3. That’s transpo jargon for public-private partnership, and is a model for how President Trump plans to rebuild America. Historically, the state has hired one firm to design a freeway, or did it in-house, and another to build it. This time, a consortium of heavy-hitters teamed up bid on a single contract to design, build, and maintain the freeway.

Six: 30. That’s how many years the consortium, called Connect 202 Partners, will maintain the South Mountain Freeway. ADOT has recommitted that the freeway will not be a toll road, which is a common financing method for the P3 highways elsewhere.

Seven: $916 million. That’s how many dollars the Connect 202 Partners contract is worth. The team is made of construction and transportation giants, Fluor, Parsons-Brinkerhoff, Granite Construction and others.

Eight: 3. That’s how many years the freeway will be under construction. It’s estimated to open by 2020.

Nine: 2.  It ties into I-10 in two places, 59th Avenue in the west, Pecos Road to the east.

Ten: 0.2. That’s the percentage, two-tenths of 1 percent, of the South Mountain Park that will be sacrificed to the freeway. Put another way, says ADOT, 31 of the 16,600 acres of the preserve. Put another way, ADOT’s environmental assessment said, the deepest notch blasted into the low ridges will be 220 feet deep.

Eleven: $21 million. What ADOT spent in dollars on the environmental study.

4. There will be three regular lanes of traffic and one dedicated to carpools, in each direction.

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Sean Holstege is the editor of Phoenix New Times. He's been a print news reporter for 35 years. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege